Gifts with meaning

By Anne-Marie Grey

This holiday season put your gift-giving to work for good 

Colorful textiles from Made51 are displayed on a table.

In this season of thankfulness and giving, it’s sometimes hard to remember the many who don’t have enough. As CEO of USA for UNHCR, this has a personal angle. Every day, my team and I work to ensure hope and dignity for refugees through the generosity of those in the U.S.

There are many ways to help refugees, including where you purchase the gifts you give. This holiday season put your gift-giving to work for good. We have partnered with the Aspen Institute’s Alliance for Artisan Enterprise and the UN Refugee Agency on MADE51, a collective of female refugee artisans who make beautiful jewelry, housewares, clothing and art objects. In addition to producing beautiful products, MADE51 artisan companies have been selected due to their commitment to pay fair wages to refugees.

By giving a gift purchased by one of these artisans, you will be giving a gift of beauty to someone you know, and giving hope and a livelihood to women artists who, through no fault of their own, have been forced to leave their homes, careers and even families.

Consider doing some Christmas shopping at one of these social enterprises and your gift will make double the impact. Your loved one will receive a beautiful and thoughtful gift and you will also give a gift to the woman refugee artist who made the gift – hope and means for a better future.

Here are some of the handmade products available through MADE51:

SEP Jordan makes beautiful, hand-embroidered scarves, pillows, bags and even cashmere ponchos. A single, talented artist embroiders each piece from start to finish, using a cross-stitch technique that has been passed down for generations.

Afrika Tiss Tuareg refugees in Burkina Faso in West Africa create stunning jewelry, textiles and other housewares. Their collection combines artisanal leather, hammered metals, natural materials (such as calabash) and accents of colorful fabrics, and the designs highlight the cultural identity of the Tuareg.

Artisan Links is a group of 100 Afghan women who have escaped to Pakistan and use their embroidery to make new lives. They specialize in Kandahari, Tarshumar, Zangeera and Puktadozi embroidery techniques.

Womencraft is a beautiful basket collection created by Burundian refugees, living in northwest Tanzania. They mix natural fibers with unraveled grain sacks, recycling these sacks into works of art.

Indego Africa also creates baskets and other housewares, and makes designs that combine traditional technique with bright, modern colors. The baskets are made by Burundian refugees living in a refugee camp in Rwanda.

Heshima Kenya is an organization dedicated to the protection and empowerment of refugee girls living in Kenya. Their social enterprise, The Maisha Collective, fosters leadership and business skills through the design and production of hand-dyed fabrics. Since 2010, the Maisha Collective, has grown into an artisan collective of over 100 young refugee women.

Arzu Studio Hope rugs are made by Banyan women returning home to Afghanistan. Through the rugs they make, these women create new lives for themselves and are able to support their families during a hard transition home.

Over the next month, we’ll feature stories of survival and hope behind each of these artisan organizations. Tune back in, and in the meantime, take a look around these sites for some unique gift ideas, and go to for more ways to support refugees in need.

Nov 22 2017